An Evening with Gordon & MacPhail

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Although it’s been nearly two months since Hurricane Sandy devastated many parts of New York, the city is still trying to pick itself up.* While clean-up and rebuilding will go on for months, other activities have resumed with the typical get-up-and-get-on-with-it attitude ingrained in most New Yorkers. Although a lot of events were interrupted by the storm, with some even being canceled, the inaugural whisky tasting at The Morgan Library & Museum went on as planned five weeks late. (And fortunately for me, the lovely and incredibly busy Allison Patel of Brenne passed on her ticket when another obligation kept her from going. Merci bien, Allison!)

The evening promised to be special just for the setting itself. If you’ve never visited, the Morgan is a repository of fine art and literature mixed with other rotating exhibitions; an archive of priceless artifacts, documents, and antiquities; and a truly unique architectural amalgam comprising J.P. Morgan’s purpose-built library/study, his son Jack’s family home, and a soaring modern space designed by Renzo Piano tying it all together. In a city chock-full of beautiful buildings, it has taken my breath away more than once. I am mostly serious about my desire to move into the East Room (a room lined floor-to-ceiling with books, with two hidden staircases to access them).

This is a safe. A safe of books.

This is a safe. A safe of books.

The tasting was held in the less fragile  Morgan Dining Room and introduced by none other than the Coopered Tot himself, Josh Feldman, who works at the Morgan. I was meeting Josh for the first time but any nervousness I might have felt was easily dispelled by his hospitality and relaxed personality. Together with Malt Maniac Peter Silver and Kate Massey, the Whiskey Dame, we enjoyed some amazing drams and good conversation with the enthusiastic guidance of Chris Riesbeck from Gordon & MacPhail who led the tasting.

The assortment of drams represented six different distilleries from all over Scotland. I enjoyed them all, and a few really stood out.

Connoisseurs Choice Clynelish 11 yo
Nose: Cherries, currants, sugar and hints of tangy smoke

Palate: An initial peppery whack slips in luscious rich fruit–cherry, apple–and a tinge of cloves.

Finish: Fades gently to a final fruity (melon? grape?) note.

Connoisseurs Choice Jura 12 yo
Nose: Brine and light peat with lots of kale and cucumber and a sharp spicy note.

Palate: Thick and chewy–eggplant and beans. The heavy spice lingers throughout.

Finish: After such an intense initial flavor and mouthfeel, the finish is surprisingly light and quite balanced, with the spice carrying through all the way to the end.

Old Pulteney 21 yo Exceptional.
Nose: Salt and brine–very much the sea in a bottle. Also some hard fruits–apple, pear.

Palate: Strong initial spice with vanilla and cinnamon too. Slightly thick and lovely, retaining the saltiness of the nose.

Finish: A lingering heat.

Benromach 10 yo
Nose: Peat, mint and watercress–very fresh despite the smoke.

Palate: Plenty of smoke, some baked bread, but that fresh note shines.

Finish: Didn’t note.

Imperial Port Finish 15 yo Exceptional.
Nose: Beautiful fruits, a total feast for the nose of grapes, cherries, and plums.

Palate: Full of fig jam and cherries, cherries, cherries. A beautiful, rich, indulgent dram.

Finish: On and on and on with fruit to the end.

Caol Ila 11 yo Cask Strength Exceptional.
Nose: As to be expected, smoke, salt, and brine with some vanilla sugar.

Palate: Packs a wallop but manages to maintain an even keel of sweetness and brine — incredible with a few drops of water.

Finish: Didn’t note, probably because I was too deep in the whisky at this point and enjoying this dram far too much.

Ready to review

Tasting toolkit

In sum, I drammed myself silly and so, it seemed, did everyone else. I also came away with a renewed passion for what I do and why. Chris said something in the course of the evening that resonated quite deeply with me and, frankly, the whole philosophy behind this blog.

“Whisky,” he declared, “should be what tastes right.” You shouldn’t feel that you have to put water in it–or that you don’t. Ignore the people who try to tell you how to drink. Like what you like–there isn’t a right or wrong way to drink whisky (or to drink, or eat, anything!).

To that I say, amen! Life is too short to eat (or drink) poorly.

*If you want to help New Yorkers rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, consider volunteering at NYC Service or donating to Occupy Sandy, Waves for Water, or another charity.

A Glorious Rammy of Whisky

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Edinburgh Surgeons’ Hall Museum — don’t you wish your doctors’ office looked like this?

Last Saturday evening, I was privileged to take part in the first (of many more, I hope) Edinburgh Whisky Stramash. Arriving after a long, hot day of shopping with my mother-in-law, I was ready for some palate-tempting, thirst-quenching adult beverages. Luckily, I was not disappointed! Because it was crowded and there were many things to see and do, I neglected to take any tasting notes. I’m going to use this post just to remind myself of what I had and what I’d like to have again.

We got in line for cocktails straightaway, as there were only two bartenders slinging the Jura Superstition into surprisingly delicious mojitos and mules. Whilst waiting to get to the front, I snagged a few drams: Tobermory 15, Ledaig 10 (which is fast becoming one of my go-to whiskies), Glen Moray Classic and Glen Moray 16. Those were the first Glen Morays I’ve had and I definitely plan on having a larger dram of the 16 again.

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New life goal: whisky library.

Over at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I enjoyed a lively Bowmore 14 (Cask 3.188) and giggled when I saw 63.27. My husband had the 76.89, a fantastic Mortlach 16 sherry cask. Moving on the next tasting room, I had another first with Dewar’s 12, then enjoyed Aberfeldy 12, the ever-satisfying Amrut Single Cask and Amrut Fusion, a fantastic Clynelish 16 bottled by Robert Graham, Tobermory 14, two new (to me) Wemyss bottlings — Red Cream Berries and The Hive. Then a taste of Dunkeld Atholl Brose, which would be lovely with some ice cream. Don’t ask me why, but I went on to Benromach Peat Smoke and the Benromach Organic, followed by Kilkerran 2004 which was a fantastic dram to end the night.

If that looks like a lot of whisky — it is. Luckily they were serving pretty tiny drams and all the ones I listed I split with my husband. Sure, I was still pretty steamin’ by the end of the night but I expected nothing less at an event that bills itself as “a glorious rammy of whisky”.

I also want to give a shout out to my new friends at J.K.’s Scrumpy Cider, who were there with Thistly Cross and their bar full of delicious apple concoctions. There wasn’t actually any Scrumpy to hand, but they did offer great banter and a fantastic apple brandy from my home state of North Carolina. I’m going to have to hunt down their organic Michigan cider when I return to the US…

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We ended the evening with the final performance of the murder mystery — an excellent whodunnit, especially for people who are already drunk. They never did tell us who the killer was, though…My money’s on the wife. She looked like the only sober one there.